1. The Ukraine complained that a Russian armored column has entered her territory. That came after the “peaceful invasion” of quickly re-painted army trucks. The half-loaded lorries expressed Putin’s “humanitarian” concern. They forced their way into an independent country to carry aid for separatist “civilians”. Although vary of a confrontation, the Ukrainians engaged the panzers. That netted prisoners. They proved to be, not local free lancers, but the regular Russian paratroopers. Newly soldiers spend their leave driving tanks in the Ukraine.
Foreign policy as an act of atonement.
Some of us live through the accident of birth and our ancestors’ sacrifices, in a functioning democracy. Such a system allows one to make choices regarding the persons that are entrusted to execute their will. Through that instrument, we can determine the goals pursued by the resulting government. Alas, the prevailing praxis falls short of the theory’s potential.
A few weeks ago, Hungary’s Prime Minister has presented some ideas at an open university as part of a brainstorming. His stated goal had been to explore the ways by which the future development of the community he is mandated to lead might be secured. As a point of departure Mr. Orbán has used his discovery that the state of liberal democracy has failed. The presentation proceeded from that finding of failure. Thus he concluded that a “work based” order needs to be developed, to avoid the mistakes of others. The concept translates into a policy of tough love. It intends to combine the goals of stability and local conditions to make society successful.
Switzerland is not perfect, but as countries go, it is hard to find one that is much better.
The more people know about Switzerland, the higher regard they tend to have for it. By almost any measure of human accomplishment, and particularly in creating a most successful country governance model, the Swiss are clearly No. 1 in the world.
Switzerland is a small, landlocked nation without much in the way of natural resources. It has managed to stay out of wars for two centuries and developed a long-term multilingual and multireligious democracy without strife. There is a rule of law with competent and unbiased judges and strong protections for private property.
Gregory Copley has argued in his recent study of Un-Civilization (2014) that the global human arrangement, a creeping improvisation of the last three or four centuries, nowadays has outlived its jerry-rigged semi-functionality so that it totters on the verge of a radical spontaneous reconstruction whose survivors will have experienced it as nothing less than a catastrophe. Eric Cline, in his recent study of The Year Civilization Collapsed (2014), underscores the likelihood of such a calamity as the one Copley predicts. Cline marshals the details of an archeologically attestable prototype of “systems collapse” that occurred around the date 1177 BC when a vast swath of the civilized Eastern Mediterranean literally went up in flames, inaugurating a “dark age” that in some places lasted four hundred years. That it has happened increases the possibility that it might happen. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, like Copley and Cline, is a student of crises, but unlike them he is primarily a religious thinker, one who takes seriously the insights of the man whom he calls the Einstein of Twentieth-Century social science, René Girard. Dupuy’s title, The Mark of the Sacred (2008; English, 2013), recalls the title of Girard’s seminal Violence and the Sacred (1966; English, 1972). In that work, Girard discovered, in myth, ritual, and tragic poetry, the signs of a “sacrificial crisis” ubiquitously and regularly afflicting archaic societies. In the sacrificial crisis, the social group suffers structural breakdown in rampant mimesis or imitation that resolves itself through the violent production of a victim; the victim’s immolation then promotes him to godhead and generates the basic forms of culture.
Our Normalcy is Abnormal and the Self-Evident is Not Obvious.
Living in an advanced country brings privileges. Since we are used to them, these appear to be self-evident. Think of security and excellent health-care. Add the role of laws to protect the citizen even against the state. Add to the benefits a system that, thanks to those laws, aims to serve its people rather than the office holders.
Such a system extends to its “shareholders” further privileges. One is that they are, through a free press, enabled to “know all about it”. Informed to the extent of their interests, they are empowered to confirm or to depose public servants.
An adjunct includes access to an education that enables those able to absorb it to become contributing members of society. This leads to the ability to access a market that offers what is coveted. It is a space where customers –and not a “ministry of consumption”- can choose according to their taste and ability to pay.
Those fortunate to live in such a system are apt to suffer from a delusion. The resulting assumptions are a dogma, which promotes that illusion into a fact.
Unfortunately, tensions between Russia and the West have risen again in the wake of the horrible attack on the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. On both sides, war rhetoric has been stepped up dramatically. As the contrast between the Russian and Western political goals and world-views seems to be growing ever larger, it is becoming clear that the problems go deeper than day-to-day events, politics, and diplomacy (the things we hear about in the news), but on the contrary follow from the two sides' fundamental misunderstanding of each other. This is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the nature of the Russian nation, the mentality of its people, and its ultimate goals. Fostering understanding between the two cultures is probably the only remaining solution that can defuse the current tension and avoid more dramatic developments, as it seems clear that mere diplomacy is no longer working.
“Higher Values” exploited to Justify Convenient Inaction.
While growing-up in the happy realm of the Soviet Union’s “outer empire”, one was harangued that “western decadence” guarantees “final victory”. That trait was attributed to capitalism, which was condemned to death by its “internal contradictions” confirmed by Marxist “science”. We kids regarded the claim as one of “their” lies. A proof of living a lie was a good marching song. It alleged, “There is no richer and more beautiful land than this one / All people feel that they are free”.
Survival despite the regime, was followed by a wished-for life in the “depraved West”. It took decades of a second life in America to reach an admission. “They” were wrong in everything, yet, in one matter they had a partial truth that held some water.
Yes, there is decadence in our realm. Even if the National Socialists and the Communists have pretended that, even if their teaching crashed when logic - and not loaded guns - was the yardstick, we have a problem with decadence.
In writing not so long ago about my appropriation of the “smart classroom” (that obtrusion of entertainment-technology into the solemnity of the academic space) so as to introduce students in a “Modern Drama” course to the mid-Nineteenth Century operatic theater of Richard Wagner, I concluded with the following thought concerning today’s collegians: “Their education, even in college, once they get there, leaves them bereft of high-cultural experience. That is a pity because taste tends to become fixed in late adolescence.” I remarked that contemporary freshmen, coming from a culturally jejune public-school curriculum, hover as though on a verge, intellectually speaking. “They will never respond to esthetic greatness unless they have an opportunity to experience it”; and yet, “those opportunities shrink away to fewer and fewer every year.”
In writing about the struggles that students experienced, first in understanding and then in articulating their responses, to two challenging novels by H. G. Wells, I ended with this meditation: “Like any healthy person, the specimen college student welcomes the chance to see things from a higher perspective, but the system as it stands is designed precisely to deprive students of any higher perspective. What passes for education is a mental diet of infant pabulum and an entrenched infantilism is one of its noticeable results.”
Submission to get a deal undermines what it wishes to preserve.
If you follow big time politics, such as in “who invades whom and why,” then you noticed that the victims of state crimes are dropped if the aggressor shows brawn. The greater the international criminal’s might, the more dogged his use of power, the greater the inventiveness to find reasons to stay beyond the sidelines. The upshot is an inaction that encourages aggression as it is made “safe” for the perpetrator.
Your own “Ministry of People’s Enlightenment” will assure you that nothing needs to be done as nothing can be done -without angering the aggressor. His provoked ill temper could enhance his defensive instinct to attack. Having said that, those that act in your name, will assure you that, anyhow, you are not affected.
Those that are immune to this sedation will continue to observe events. These “hard-lines” will remember “history’s” analogous errors, the mistakes that, we were assured by our professors, would never be repeated. They failed to add “until convenience” makes the repetition of the ignored past profitable in the next election.
Too little, too late. Perhaps that is the only certain thing we can say about the recent elections for the European Parliament. Certainly, Eurosceptical and anti-immigration parties have won an unprecedented number of seats in the European parliament, but to make a real difference, these victories should have come at least ten years earlier. Later generations will undoubtedly consider this episode somewhat farcical: only when Europe began to break down, the timid electorates could muster the courage to at least vote for some of the “right-wing” parties. However, the problem with these right-wing victories is not only, as commonly reported by analysts, that they will find it extremely difficult to form a coalition with all their internal divisions. The first difficulty, which only a few observers have seemed to notice, is that many of the so-called “right wing” parties are not right-wing at all. As we shall see, the reason for this is the simple fact that the Europeans, except the French, still have not sufficiently overcome their timidity to be able to discern the stark options that Europe faces today, and prefer to vote for “respectable” right-wing parties, which, however, by their very nature will degenerate into establishment parties if ever they get into government. Another cloud on the horizon, equally unnoticed, is the threat that the more outspoken right-wing parties in certain countries can further degenerate into fascism, and thus ultimately bring about the destruction of European civilization which they wanted to prevent in the first place. I will analyze these two phenomena here: such analysis can provide us with crucial insight into the future of Europe, and not simply in the immediate future of the European parliament, with which most journalists occupy themselves.